The outsourcing boom has yet to fully grip the physician's back office. At least that's what a new survey of physician practices indicates.
Most physicians -- 72% -- still do billing and collections in house, according to the Chicago-based National CPA Health Care Advisors Association. Meanwhile, 24% outsource some or all of those functions.
"I think there's probably a good reason for it," says Stuart Kertzner, a partner in charge of the medical service group at Gettry Marcus Stern & Lehrer, an HCAA member. The larger groups formed through practice consolidations have the capability and expertise to handle their own billing and collections, and management services organizations typically bring their billing and collections systems in house.
The HCAA, a not-for-profit association of accounting firms, recently surveyed physician practices nationwide to get a better handle on how they manage their practices. In addition to billing services, the survey covered physician compensation and practice management software. A total of 124 practices of various sizes responded to the survey.
The perceived benefits of outsourcing apparently improve with the amount of work farmed out. On a scale of 1 (meaning no benefit) to 5 (meaning significant benefit), outsourcing received an average rating of 4 from physicians who outsource all their billing and collection activities vs. 3.2 from those who outsource a portion of those functions.
Across the board, physician practices that outsource all billing and collection functions receive more information from outside vendors to help them manage their practices than providers who outsource just some of those functions, the survey found.
It could be that the outsourcing companies don't have all the data they need to provide a complete picture, Kertzner says. But the larger problem, he says, is that many physicians don't have the in-house expertise to analyze the data they're getting.
"I think the problem is with a lot of the smaller practices that can't really afford the in-house expertise," he says.